Category Archives: Israel

When teachers can’t add 2+2

The recent vote taken by the student union body of Goldsmiths College in London to refrain from commemorating Holocaust Observance Day because it is “Eurocentric” and “colonialist” is as brazen in its audacity as it is anti-semitic in its intent.

The Egyptian-Muslim student leader, Sarah al-alfy, who implored the student body to reject the motion no doubt feels she has put in one for the brothers and sisters.

It would appear that, as a British Muslim, while Sarah al-alfy is keen that (mainly) Christian Britons accept her as Muslim and British, she sees no moral or intellectual dissonance in denying the right of others to grieve man’s inhumanity to man simply because they are not Muslim; or simply because they are European.

Moreover, Sarah al-alfy would also be hard pressed to explain why the Goldsmiths decision precludes the commemoration of other genocides in Afghanistan, North Korea, China, Japan (in Manchuria), Cambodia or Rwanda. Is it merely because they are not European or because it does not involve 6 million Jews???

Even if we disregard Sarah al-alfy’s enthusiasm as a lack of maturity or ‘romantic’ over-exuberance fueled by European media spin, the fact that the vote was taken and passed at a teachers training college is of more significance. Goldsmiths College, University of London, is a premier teacher education facility in England.

That this college was targeted by Muslim activists and sympathisers to influence young non-muslim teachers in training who will soon go out and teach all over Britain and Europe, is significant because of the influence teachers have over their charges. Mutliply that by around 45 to 47 years  in a teaching career in various metropolitan or country teaching authorities in and around the United Kingdom per Goldsmiths student, and the true significance of the vote and the efforts to reach the result becomes much clearer.

Intending teachers do not start of their college life as particularly intelligent or well-read members of society. Student teachers are students first and teachers only later. That most develop sooner rather than later as custodians of culturally situated valued knowledge in a cultural tradition which still mainly values the written word is, in most instances, true.

However, deliberately targeting impressionable young teachers who are unfamiliar with the minutae and nuances of the Israeli-Arab conflict to take a decision which deliberately ignores one of the greatest crimes (numbers wise..) ever committed because they are Jews or Armenians is brazen, deliberate, well-thought out and one more stepping stone in the eyes of a vocal, violent few to the inevitable establishment of a Caliphate in Europe.

It is brazen because London is in Europe and is led by a monarch who is sworn to be an upholder of the values and mores of a Protestant Church of England.

The Sarah al-alfy led decision for the students’ union to disassociate itself from the observance of Holocaust Memorial Day, European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, Holodomor [Ukrainian] Memorial Day Act and Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day is as short-sighted, cynical and puerile in its inception as it is insulting in its intent. It is racist.

It is a cocky declaration of non-acceptance of other if you are Jewish or Armenian or Ukranian and a disturbing display of the inability to empathise with human suffering so typical of the non-thinking “me-too” group think which typified the rise and rule of European fascism in Germany, Spain, France and Italy a generation ago.

Sarah al-alfy’s exhortations to the student union to reject observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Goldsmiths College because it is “Eurocentric” and “colonialist” can now be contextualised for what it is: one more attempt to delegitimize targeted ethno-religious groups with yet another rejection of other.

The Goldsmiths decision, yet again, turns the original aims of political correctness on its head. The Goldsmiths decision mainstreams bigotry, so long as it is directed at Europeans and not against Muslims. The Goldsmiths decision makes it fashionable/attractive for uni students to turn against the cultures, learning and personal freedoms it offers people like Sarah al-alfy who is happy to take the best it can offer while at the same time exhorting others to delegitimize it. More worryingly, the Goldsmiths decision frames a lack of empathy as OK as long as it is directed at Armenians and Jews.

Sarah al-alfy herself will soon fade into obscurity. She is not the issue. She was merely a willing pawn in a wider, well thought out gambit aimed at delegitimizing others on ethno-religious grounds. What she on the other hand stands for, as an Egyptian Muslim in Britain, certainly IS the issue.

This disturbs and angers me particularly because I am a long, long lapsed alumnus of the College.

Is Londonistan (cf. Melanie Philips) finally a reality in the British Isles???

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When Bias becomes Anti-Semitism

On 23rd July 2014, the ICJ submitted a written statement for the 21st special session of the HRC at the UN.

The ICJ called for an immediate withdrawal of Israel from Gaza (implemented in 2005), and alleged that
1. Israel was perpetrating “…disproportionate and often indiscriminate attacks…” against civilians and civilian targets in Gaza
2. Israel breached “…international humanitarian law and gross violations of human rights law…” in Gaza
3. Israel had, for decades, been responsible for a “…cycle of impunity…” in the ME which had fueled “chronic cycles of atrocities committed in the context…” of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In closing, the ICJ statement stated that such behaviour
• undermined “..the very fabric of international law and accountability
• impaired the international community’s ability to protect others and
• severely hampered the rights of victims to “remedies and reparation.”

Consequently, the ICJ believed it should now
• “…prepare the ground for the investigation and possible prosecution of military, political and armed group leaders…” and that it must
• urge the UNSC to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Israel has taken these allegations very seriously, even though it has received no answers why the same scrutiny should not apply to
• President Barack Obama for the alleged ongoing collateral damage to innocent children and civilians in American drone attacks on the Pakistan/Waziristan border
• Current envoy to the Quartet on the Middle East, former British PM Tony Blair for alleged breaches of international law and war crimes in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan during his tenure between 1997 -2007
• Alleged American actions in Afghanistan in 2013- present
• Alleged American actions in Yemen 2011- to present
• British politicians and ministers for alleged systematic British troop war crimes in Iraq 2003-2008
• Pakistan for alleged current violations of human rights within its borders
• Burma 2013 alleged ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya and the dumping of bodies in mass graves
• Iran 1990- to present for alleged human rights abuse against LGBTs and systematic sociocide of Iranians of the Bahai faith
• Syria and Bashar Assad for barrel bombing civilian targets in Homs and Aleppo and the alleged use of poison gas on citizens of Damascus suburbs in 2013 and 2014
• President Sisi for the alleged Tahrir Square massacres
• Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for alleged war crimes in Syria and Iraq
• Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine conflict for alleged breach of international law and the UN Charter which forbids the acquisition of land by force
• Tayip Recep Erdogan for alleged use of excessive force and breach of human rights in the Gezi troubles
• Qatar’s alleged current ongoing (and longstanding) abuse of workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal as they prepare for Doha 2022
• Hamid Karzai for allowing the ongoing practice of stoning women to death as a punishment for either adultery or being raped
• Political leaders of Sudan for the alleged atrocities of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the mainly Christian Dinka and Nuer tribesmen into South Sudan
• King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for the beheading of 19 people since 4th August 2014; people who were not jailed for violent crimes
• Li Keqiang of the Peoples Republic of China for the ongoing genocide and alleged sociocide of the Tibetan people in occupied Tibet

Israel has, to date, received no reasonable answers as to why, in the light of these alleged atrocities, war crimes, wars of aggression and flagrant human rights abuses, the International Court of Jurists has not also seen fit to “…prepare the ground for the investigation and possible prosecution of military, political and armed group leaders…” of the countries above-mentioned.

Any interested observer would want to understand why there have been twice as many urgent debates and special sessions of the Human Rights Council on Israel in the past eight-years than there have been, for example, on Syria with upwards of 200,000 dead, 4 million displaced, where poison gas has been used on civilians and where a Kurdish minority in that state is suffering systematic sociocide.

As well, an interested observer would also want to understand why there has never been a single special session on a place like Iran or China or Russia or America with documented human rights abuses and war crimes allegations. Or why there has never been a single resolution on countries like Saudi Arabia or Cuba.

Or even why fully 33% of all the resolutions and decisions critical of a single state – out of all 193 UN members – have been directed at Israel alone.

A not unreasonable answer might appear to be that this lack of ICJ urgency/outrage to “…prepare the ground for the investigation and possible prosecution of military, political and armed group leaders…” of the countries and governments mentioned above might be because no Jews/Israelis were involved.

The legal battles against Israel cloaked as upholding international peace and decency in the international courts will shortly begin.

I believe that with specific reference to Gaza 2014 and the specificity of the July 23 ICJ statement to the HRC, Israel has taken all necessary legal precautions throughout the war regarding strikes and their legality and documented evidence to acquit well itself in the coming charade that will be the investigation.

For the second group which is mentioned only briefly in that same statement to the special session of the HRC, I believe the going will be just a touch harder…….

Genocide and the war in Gaza

Now that the 2014 Gaza War is settling into a series of broken ceasefires, increasingly political inflexibility, tit-for-tat retaliations by both sides and a settling-in for a long-haul war of attrition, the attention of those who would see the ultimate de-legitimisation of the Jewish State has turned to pursuing Israel in the international courts of law.

This group of so-called liberals and ideologues of the left maintain that, in Gaza 2014, Israel may be proven to be guilty of war crimes not excluding the crime of genocide.

Cloaking a malevolent and destructive anti-semitic narrative with the mantle of “international law” are international lawyers like William Schabas.

Schabas belongs to that small but vociferous group who espouse what Jonathan Kay calls “…the casual anti-Israel bias that permeates the left-wing NGO and academic circles in which [Schabas] circulates.” William Schabas is not a raving anti-Israel advocate on the order of the arguably delusional Richard Falk, or the attention-seeking Jew-hatred of a George Galloway.

Schabas’ Israel animus is altogether much more refined, nuanced, balanced. The son of a prominent Canadian Jewish musician, Schabas offers as his street creds that he has eaten at Jewish delis [sic], has been to a synagogue several times with his father, that he actively opposes an economic boycott of the Jewish state and that he sits on the board of The Israel Law Review.

Be that as it may, Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer and executive director of UN Watch, accredited to the United Nations as a non-governmental organization mandated to monitor the world’s body’s adherence to the UN Charter, has called for Schabas to recuse himself under international law “…because his repeated calls to indict Israeli leaders obviously gives rise to actual bias or the appearance thereof.”

Neuer calls for Schabas to be legally disqualified because of recorded prior statements expressing his wish to see Prime Minister Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres indicted before the International Criminal Court. As Neuer sees it, Schabas cannot “…spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge. It’s absurd — and a violation of the minimal rules of due process applicable to UN fact-finding missions.”

In addition, Schabas will find it difficult to prove absence of bias in light of his 2009 interview after Operation Cast Lead where he stated that he believed “…that pretending the prosecution of Sudan [at the International Criminal Court (ICC)] is not political is a mistake, too. Of course it is political. Why are we going after the president of Sudan for Darfur and not the president of Israel for Gaza? Because of politics.”

 Further, in a 2009 blog post about the UN’s infamous Durban II conference on racism, Schabas urged the world not only to “ignore” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements, but to stop “exaggerating” them. According to Schabas, those who “deserve the blame” are “Israel and its friends, who have manipulated the truth about the nature of the work of the United Nations by gross exaggeration of the role and intervention of certain fanatics.”

In 2010, in a panel discussing “lawfare” at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Schabas told a packed audience hall, “Frankly, if I had to think of an individual who would be the greatest threat for the survival of Israel, I’d probably choose Netanyahu.”

In 2011, Schabas went to Iran to co-sponsor conferences with the Tehran-based “Center for Human Rights and Cultural Diversity,” despite its intimate ties with the fundamentalist regime, and avowed propaganda agenda.  The center’s director, Kamran Hashemi, a former political officer with Iran’s foreign ministry, wrote his Ph.D under Schabas at the Irish Center for Human Rights.

Schabas continues to be incapable of framing himself as an unbiased arbiter with his 2013 recorded statement that he believed that it would be eminently possible to prosecute Israel over its actions in Gaza, even if that involved, in Schabas’ video speech, “twisting things and maneuvering” in the international legal arena.

At the 2013 Russell Tribunal hearings, Schabas made the extraordinary statement, in talking about culpability for Cast Lead 2008-09 and about potential ICC defendants, by saying, “My favorite would be Netanyahu in the dock of the International Criminal Court.” Of course, the reader is aware that it was Ehud Olmert who was Prime Minister at the time, while Netanyahu was in opposition.

Asked about the possibility of prosecuting Israel for “ecocide,” Schabas expressed optimism on gradually enlarging the scope of legal accusations against Israel.

In light of the above, one wonders what other ‘impartial’ legal accusations Schabas would like to indict Israel for in the ICC.

Schabas believed that by appearing ‘reasonable’, he could evade scrutiny about his anti-Israel bias. Unfortunately, he has left a clear trail of his intentions and preferences.

The very resolution creating the inquiry which Schabas is slated to head and which is sponsored by the Arab and Islamic states was “born in bias,” in that it condemns Israel 18 times without mentioning Hamas even once.

Schabas will not like that the EU refused to support the resolution, saying it was “unbalanced, inaccurate, and… fails to condemn explicitly the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas as well as to recognize Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.” Even US President Barack Obama’s representative to the UNHRC described the inquiry as “yet another one-sided mechanism targeting Israel.”

In his latest [as of this writing] doozy, Schabas refused to say if his commission of inquiry would examine crimes by Hamas. His excuse was that he would need to check with “the other commissioners”. (Actually, there’s only one other commissioner, Doudou Diene; the third one, Clooney fiancee Amal Alamuddin, pulled out on the same day the UN announced her appointment.)

Further, Schabas refuses to call Hamas a terrorist group, even though it is legally defined as such by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Jordan, Egypt, Australia, Japan and Israel.

When, in 2004, Schabas was invited to lecture  at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Jerry Fowler, the founding director of the museum’s Committee on Conscience, introduced him as “the world expert on the law of genocide and international law.”

“He wrote the book on it,” said Fowler in his introduction. “He has thought very deeply about the historical underpinnings of genocide in international law.”

Fowler may well be right. However, that is no guarantee that William Schabas does not have a pre-determined agenda.

From the brief overview outlined above, Israel should not accept his candidacy even if he asserts that he intends to “…park his prejudices at the door…”

Israel should not co-operate with William Schabas or his commission of inquiry.

Sociocide

As increasing numbers of Israel-haters now come out of the woodwork in the aftermath of the 2014 Gaza war, those who particularly hate Israel continue to search for new ways to delegitimise and legally hog-tie Israel and the Jews.

The most recent example of this ongoing anti-semitic practice of inventing new ways to indict the soldiers and political leaders of Israel is the appointment of William Schabas to head the UN Commission into the whys and wherefores of the 2014 Gaza war.

Schabas is a well known foe of Israel who uses his standing to mainstream ideas which will legally and economically harm the State of Israel.

It is now clear that Israel will not be removed through war. It then becomes increasingly difficult for people like Schabas to make the emotional case that Israel is committing genocide in places like Gaza.

This is mainly because the census figures for Gaza show that while the population in 1948 was estimated at around 240,000 people, it stands today at around 1.3 million inhabitants.

However, Professor William Schabas, professor of international law, believes that Israel is already guilty of sociocide if his recorded 2013 speech at the Russell Tribunal is anything to go by.

In this, Schabas is not showing initiative or originality. He is merely following the work of another documented anti-semite, Norwegian born John Galtung who in 1982 first coined the term in academic papers for his sociology classes.

Sociocide, as people like Galtung and Schabas see it, is the deliberate destruction of the social infrastructure which is the fundamental building blocks of any society.

Sociocide would include, for example, deliberately targeting, with the aim of destroying, group solidarity, national, ethnic, and gender identity, the family, social institutions, and the individual’s self-consciousness through taking the role of others as well as the generalized other. And once sociocide is perpetrated on a particular group of people, these social phenomena, (eg social conscience) cannot exist.

Sociologists like Galtung, and legal hangers-on like Schabas looking to use the coattails of others to make a name for themselves, took their inspiration from the tireless efforts of Raphael Lemkin, a young Polish Jew turned jurist, inspired by the mass killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1918.

Lemkin famously coined the term “genocide” which was defined as acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such.” His definition was accepted and became international law in December 1946, when the General Assembly of the new United Nations Organization voted a resolution concerning it.

This led to the passage of the United Nations “Convention on the prevention of the crime of genocide” on 9 December 1948 and then its adoption in 1951 after ratification by enough member states. (Interestingly, the United States belatedly ratified it only in 1988, initially because of the legal apartheid in some Southern states and then because of its exactions in Vietnam and elsewhere….)

Taking particular aim at Israel and her people, other Israel-haters like Portis (2011) define the ultimate aim of sociocide not as the physical destruction of peoples, or of a loosely defined culture, or of a State, but rather the destruction of the relationships between the different groups constituting a society.

This, according to Portis, is what the Zionists did in Palestine.

Citing Ilan Pappe (no less….), Portis posits that “ethnic cleansing” such as that practised by the Zionists from 1948 onwards contributed physically and culturally to the sociocide of the “Palestinian” people.

Specifically, Zionism destroyed the social bonds between diverse groups in “Palestine” in order to clear the way for colonial or imperialist domination and exploitation of the region through expropriation of the land, exploitation of its economic resources and occupation of its strategic location.

Like Portis, allegedly ‘impartial’ professors of international law like Schabas (who is to head the UN Commission into the 2014 Gaza war) believe that Israel is already guilty of sociocide. He said exactly that in 2013 when speaking at the Russell Tribunal hearings where he also famously said he would love to see Netanyahu in the dock for his “crimes” in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 when, history records, it was Ehud Olmert, and not Netanyahu, who was the Prime Minister at the time….

Not to be outdone by Schabas’ disregard for historical fact, Larry Portis (2011) states that, for him, the destruction of Israel as an institutionalized juridical entity remains the only possible way of achieving social harmony in the region of historical Palestine.

He believes that the right of habitation in Israel/territories must not extend to specific groups so as to reinforce the exclusion of other groups, as the Zionist movement and then the state of Israel have done. Only by ending what he terms “the infamous Israeli Law of Return can the creation of non-confessional political institutions, lead to the re-emergence of a truly cohesive society in the area.

He does not address the 2013 statement of Mahmoud Abbas, unelected leader of the PA “unity government” that no a single Jew would be allowed to live in the newly created state of “Palestine”. Nor does he address Israel’s concern that the other half of the “unity” government in Gaza trumpets the destruction of the State of Israel and the killings of Jews wherever it may find them.

The legal tussles with the enemies of Israel go on.

Sociocide is an interesting sociological construct and purely as a construct, it needs to stay where it originated with Galtung: in the text books.

In the real world, creating any significant critical mass for the concept to gain traction in international jurisdictions will mean that the likes of Galtung, Schabas and Portis will have their work cut for them for many, many years to come.

The ICRC and the legal case against Israel.

For several decades, the ICRC, leading the way for other like-minded NGOs, has waged a campaign of de-legitimization against the State of Israel.

For several decades, the ICRC, as the “official guardian” of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) (GC IV), has tried to make its interpretation of the document authoritative and binding internationally.

Using its exclusive position, it turned GC IV – which was intended to ensure the protection of civilians threatened by war and other conflicts – into a political sledgehammer against Israel.

It has turned a well-meaning document primarily concerned with humanitarian issues and the rights of “protected persons” in time of conflict into a political tool now designating the borders and make-up of new countries.

As such, it will always run into a legal brick wall in trying to impose its interpretation of the Convention on unwilling others.

Not satisfied with interpreting the Fourth Geneva Convention according to its own political bent, the ICRC has now expanded its own powers to begin handing out statehood to entities it deems as worthy in breach of the very international laws that form its own charter.

While prior to 1967, there was never any mention of a Palestinian identity (culture, people, nation), from around 1999, the word “Palestine” and “Palestinians” became part of the UN’s lexicon meant to create a virtual Palestinian state following a conference (in 1999) of the High Contracting Parties of GC IV meeting at the UN headquarters in Geneva where the ICRC has its headquarters.

Thus, because it was pursuing a pre-defined outcome, the ICRC ruled that the GC IV applied to what it chose to term the “Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem.” Reaffirmed in 2001 at a similar conference, thanks to the ICRC, the term “OPT” became “official” even though this declaration has no basis in either international law or UUN Security Council resolutions.

For example, Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), refers to “territories occupied in the recent conflict,” but does not specify what those territories are. And, of course, nowhere in this resolution is the term “Palestinian” used.

Moreover, Resolution 242, as the basis of a binding ruling within UN Chrater which applies equally to all member states, also stipulates the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.”

Thus, based on a preference to reach a biased and pre-defined outcome, the ICRC interprets Security Council Resolutions 446 (1979) and 478 (1980), for example, refer to “the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem.”

This interpretation of the IRCR begs two questions: What is occupation, and to whom do these areas belong?
But even here, the ICRC’s favoured interpretations strike a sustained legal dissonance with the terminology of the Hague Convention of 1907 (Art. 43) itself, which defines occupation as “the authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant…”

Even the ICRC would agree that any reasonable definition of the term “occupation” applies to areas which were previously the sovereign territory of another state.

In the case of Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza, however, this is patently not the case.

Both territories were, in international law dating back to the 1920 San Remo Accords, League of Nations instruments including the British Mandate, and Article 80 of the UN Charter, illegally occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively between 1948-1967.

The ICRC conveniently side-steps the fact that till 1967, there was no legitimate sovereign of the territory at the time, that Israel’s claims remain unique as the indigenous inhabitants of the land, and was within its legal rights to legitimately take that land back in a defensive action in 1967 based on the legally binding international agreements already mentioned above.

Unfazed by either historicity or international law, the ICRC continued to prosecute a strategy on behalf of a terrorist organisation in three stages.

Firstly, they expanded the concept of international armed conflict to cover essentially internal conflicts in which national liberation movements are engaged in a struggle against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes.

Secondly, they began to define the PLO as a “national liberation movement,” and Israel as a “colonial, alien and racist regime.”

And finally, they defined all Israeli actions as “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and in “violation of international humanitarian law” as determined by their own organisation’s definitions!!!

It’s an interesting ploy, but one which will not stand up to even mild scrutiny because it is so patently self-serving.

This UN backed process of making (unratified) laws and forming ‘ loaded’committees to suit its own purposes continues today with the appointment of William Schabas to head a three-member UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry into events in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem since the Hamas kidnapping of three Israeli teens on July 12, 2014.

If Schabas does indeed get to begin this task, his stewardship will be plagued with doubts and questions as to his imaprtiality as there are more than good grounds that the lawyer recuse himself from the panel on the basis of his documented anti-Israeli stands and pronouncements over the years.

For example, when asked very recently whether he considered Hamas a terror organisation, Schabas said it was inappropriate for him to offer an opinion on a matter like that.

This, however, did not prevent him from offering an opinion in the Russell Tribunal in 2013, that his favourite person to see criminally tried for the 2008-9 Gaza conflict would be Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

It did not appear to bother him that the Prime Minister at the time of Operation Cast Lead was Ehud Olmert, who under Netanyahu’s current term in office, is serving a six-year jail sentence for corruption…..

Overweening bias can make you forgetful and confused.

It is ‘little’ things like this that will continue to ensure that Israel will continue to prevail both on the battlefield and in the lawcourts and will continue to be the benchmark against which other armies around the world will be measured.

The ICRC does much good humanitarian work around the world.

However, with its political bias against Israel and its abuse of the unique role entrusted it under UN Charter, the ICRC is arguably an international enabler of anti-Israeli sentiment around the world.

Perhaps that could form the basis of a future blog.

Only yesterday, the unanimous adoption of resolution 2170 (2014), under the binding Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the UN Security Council condemned in the strongest terms what it called “gross, systematic and widespread abuse” of human rights by the terrorist Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front.

Now, to work on enabling the UNSC to convince the ICRC that it is required to change its focus to the true criminality and aggressions of the Sunni Islamic terror group Hamas in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict…..

Shabat Shalom.

( This article is based on the intellectual property of Moshe Dann )

Proportionality in Gaza 2014

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. “

                         Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations

 

The July 2014 Gaza conflict finally separated the moral wheat from the anti-semitic chaff.

Scenes of unbelievable vitriol directed against Jews exploded in many cities. In Belgium, a café owner welcomed dogs but refused Jews entry. In Morocco, a rabbi was beaten up because he was a Jew. In Sweden, a man displaying an Israeli flag had his windows smashed. In Paris, a mob of Muslim supporters barricaded Jews in their synagogue while trying to break down the entrance gate to get at them. All in the name of a “free “Palestine”…..

Whereas all these centres of demonstrated anti-semitic hate were quiet when Hamas rained down rockets on civilian centres in Israel, people with barely concealed hate for Jews went into paroxysms of anti-semitic speech and actions as Israel began to defend herself.

As in 2008-09 and in 2012, the chorus of anti-semities masquerading as anti-zionists chanted in unison about Israeli war crimes against “Palestinian” civilians and how the Israeli response was disproportionate. In England, while Sayeeda Warsi resigned her position in Parliament in protest against what she considered a soft British stand against a disproportionate Israeli response in Gaza, in Turkey, Erdogan declared that what the Jews were doing in Gaza was worse than the atrocities carried out by Hitler.

It would appear that almost everybody seemed to have ideas and suggestions as to how to augment the humanitarian component in the law of international armed conflict. This is all great stuff and thoroughly commendable. However, it is important to keep in mind the thought that wars are actually fought to be won. In war, people die.

Just wanting to see zero-casualty warfare is a contradiction in terms, no matter how many UN bodies and/or NGOs would like to say differently. War, almost by definition, entails human losses, suffering and pain. As long as it is waged, humanitarian considerations cannot be the sole legal arbiters of the conduct of hostilities.

This is not to be taken as an apology for war. Rather it is to be taken as a basis for examining the conduct of parties in armed conflict, where that basis and framework in law is applied equally to both sides.

In the case of Gaza 2014, the overt support provided Hamas by the media cover up of the activities of this terror group, is slowly beginning to unravel.

For the fools’ chorus banging on about Israeli war crimes and Israeli crimes against humanity, information is now getting out from Gazan journos free of retribution from Hamas, on just how cynical the terror group has been in manipulating the media and the jaundiced classes.

Two days ago, NDTV from India, visually documented a Hamas rocket set up and launch from a teeming civilian centre, metres from their hotel.

France 24’s Gallagher Fenwick live TV coverage from Gaza had to take an unscheduled break during a live cross to Paris as a rocket was fired overhead from just behind him. The next day he re-visits the site to show a wider angle shot of the launch site metres away from a 7 storey building flying the UN flag…..

Reporter Peter Stefanovic, of Australia’s own Nine Network’s news, stationed in Gaza, received a surge of abuse and threats when he tweeted that he had seen rockets fired into Israel from near his hotel, in a civilian area.

The Wall Street Journal’s reporter Nick Casey fell foul of Hamas by reporting that Shifa hospital was Hamas’s control centre.

French-Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abu Dagga wrote that he was forcibly blocked from leaving Gaza and detained and interrogated by members of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigade at a room in Shifa hospital next to the emergency room.

A Finnish TV reporter who did not feel safe to give her name on TV for fear of repercussion verified that Hamas was indeed launching rockets from the car park of the al-Shifa hospital.

And, of course, Italian reporter Gabriele Barbati (now) famously tweeted: “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired (Hamas) rocket killed children today in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared ­debris.”

All this may help explain the PA’s new-found reluctance to pursue action against Israel in the ICC despite the urging of “Palestinian” “chief negotiator” Saeb Erekat and HRW chief, Kenneth Roth.

It could also be a result of a bleak warning by Shurat HaDin that in doing so, the “unity” government would itself face a “…tsunami of charges for human rights violations and war crimes…” if it cared to go down that path.

But rhetoric and threat aside, what is Israel’s position legally when it comes to possibly being arraigned for war crimes over use of disproportionate force against Hamas in Gaza?

The short answer is, it’s pretty good.

The law of international armed conflict (LOIAC ) can and does forbid some modes of behaviour, with a view to minimizing the losses, the suffering and the pain. But it can do so only when there are realistic alternatives to achieving the military goal of victory in war.

Not many would realistically refute the suggestion that, from the Hamas coup in 2007 to June 2014, Hamas rockets at civilian concentrations were ongoing provocation of the highest order. That much is clear.

Thus, in interpreting the law of international armed conflict, Israel’s efforts to avoid war were numerous and ongoing. In the end, on paper, Israel went to war because there were no longer any realistic alternatives to achieving safety for its citizens apart from a determined military response.

But what of the charge of disproportionate response?

In this case, people not sympathetic to the Israeli cause happily conflate some ideas, or outright make up others which complement their preferred narrative. It is true that many more Gazans (but not armed males??!!) than Israelis died in the conflict so far. Each Israeli death is unbearably painful, and the loss is lasting.

However, the doctrine of proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about [equality of] firepower.

Recently retired Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, defined it thus:

“Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime…. even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur.

A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality).”

In this he is backed up by Professor Horst Fischer, Academic Director of the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict in Germany who adds that:

“… attacks are prohibited if they cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects that is excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage of the attack. This creates a permanent obligation for military commanders to consider the results of the attack compared to the advantage anticipated.” (emphasis mine)


The Council on Foreign Relations notes that according to the doctrine of proportionality, “…a state is legally allowed to unilaterally defend itself …provided the response is proportional to the injury suffered. The response must also be immediate and necessary, refrain from targeting civilians, and require only enough force to reinstate the status quo ante.

Today, Israel has quickly reinstated the status quo ante to the extent that it has pulled out of Gaza once it destroyed the terror tunnels and severely incapacitated Hamas’ long range rocket launching capabilities. It has redeployed to the territorial border prior to the ground offensive and it has taken up defensive positions along the eastern border as a possible ceasefire is hammered out.

Its response to the rain of rockets was immediate and a necessary defensive measure in order to fulfill its obligations to its own citizens.

And unambiguously, Israel’s use of telephone calls and mass leaflet drops to civilians in combat areas to evacuate because of impending attack, its creation and use of the technique of the “roof knock” to warn civilians away from targeted military assets on the ground, and its ongoing demonstrated commitment to aborting attack missions after finding civilians used as human shields on rooftops, all stand up to any legal scrutiny in the ICC.

The same cannot be said of Hamas, nor does it exonerate the supportive actions of the PA in Ramallah who are part of the “unity government”.

In sum, proportionality weighs the military necessity of an action against the suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.

Israel has coordinated its documented air and artillery strikes with legal advice prior to each attack in accordance with the spirit and letter of international law and common understandings.

It will be difficult/impossible to prove otherwise in court.

And it will be difficult for Hamas/PA to deflect charges of gross misconduct and war crimes, by that same token.

By any reasonable definition/interpretation of international law, Israel remains legally within its rights in its adherence to principles central to jus ad bellum of right authority, right intention, reasonable hope, proportionality, and last resort.

NB I would add that with regards to the principle of “distinction”, where it is incumbent on belligerents to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Article 8(2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which prohibits attack directed against civilians may not necessarily be proved against Israel in the tragedy of the boys on the beach in Gaza, as it is difficult to ascribe intention; and particularly in light of the fact that Israel has more than amply consistently demonstrated, throughout the conflict, intent  to avoid civilian casualties by all available means.